Sunday, January 02, 2011

The Poet’s Way: a review

Following yesterday’s story on Vishvapani’s new book 'Gautama Buddha', Sarah Ryan, Publishing Manager of Triratna’s Windhorse Publications, writes with news of one of their recent books. She says -

“We’ve received a beautiful review of Manjusvara’s new book The Poet’s Way which I’d love to share with everyone on Triratna News. It’s a lovely book and I’m so happy it’s been so well received.

With warm wishes for a happy mid-winter, Sarah

Padmachandra’s Review of The Poet's Way by Manjusvara, Windhorse Publications 2010

A Trustworthy Guide

“As I write this, the snow is falling outside the window, and leaving a tablet of pure white on the grass. Reflecting on Manjusvara's new book about writing and the spiritual path, The Poet's Way, I immediately think of the blank white page that the poet or aspiring writer must face before setting off on their journey. For some this white page may be terrifying, for others exciting, and for many both of these things, representing as it does the unknown, the not yet come into being. If I were to be setting out into the unknown through the snow, or through facing a blank page for the first time -and it always feels like the first time, indeed is new and unique each time - I would like to have the voice in my ear of someone who has already travelled the way. A voice that is friendly, accessible, straightforward, authentic, and which seems to be speaking specifically to me. A voice which also communicates that spark of magic that is in all creative enterprise. Manjusvara's voice is just like this throughout this simple yet profound book: a voice that is trustworthy and intimate, humorous, enthusiastic and never patronising. Whilst reading the book I also felt the generosity of someone who was willing to share the tools of his trade in detail and without jargon, what he has learned through hard work along the way, both as a poet and experienced Dharma practitioner.

“The first four chapters explore what a poem actually is and how it works to transport us from one realm of a more ‘mundane’ reality, to a deeper and more meaningful experience of the world and ourselves. He explores particularly the special use of language that is employed in poetry and how this changes our consciousness, if we allow it to. He also introduces many engaging examples and stories throughout the book to illustrate his points.

“Each chapter ends with an exercise that helps us to tap into this experience for ourselves. Manjusvara's take in both this work and his other book, Writing Your Way, is fairly unique in discussing the process of writing poetry within the more holistic context of an attempt to live life consciously and ethically.

“After chapter four Manjusvara goes into more precise detail about the craft of poetry. One highlight for me was Manjusvara's exploration of forms and line breaks in chapter five ‘oblongs and squares’ in which he explains very clearly – and shows by giving examples – the different effects of breaking lines in different places. I don't think I've read a more accessible and enjoyable account of the importance and significance of enjambment and where the poet breaks the line. I also particularly enjoyed chapter nine, Knowing when to stop, where Manjusvara again describes in detail the process he went through in writing a poem, the different decisions he made along the way, and why.

“Amongst other aspects of the craft of poetry Manjusvara discusses sound, rhythm and rhyme (which as a trained composer he is well qualified to discuss), different poetic forms, and shapes of poems in general. What is particularly helpful is that he always explains in very clear language the effects of different aspects of the poem, how and why they work.

“Reading this book for me was like entering an ocean. The entry seemed gradual and straightforward, but seemingly without effort or difficulty I found myself having been guided surely and steadily to deep places where inspiration and treasures were generously offered. I would recommend this book as a great and uniquely accessible guide for anyone sincerely wishing to understand and write poetry, especially where they value reading and writing as a means towards greater sensitivity and awareness of self and world.


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